Local politicians discuss teacher sick-out and education tax extension

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House Minority Leader Rebecca Rios and Senate Assistant Minority Leader Steve Farley discuss the teacher sick-out on Wednesday and the possible expansion of the education tax detailed in Prop 301.

Teachers on Wednesday staged a “sick-out” to gather at the capitol and demand for higher salaries. Farley says that hundred in the finance committee showed up in red to support the passing of the bills that would allow to give more money to teachers. Over Farley’s objection, a bill was passed to give a $30 million a year subside to a coal company, and a bill that would give the 183 richest people in the state $27,000 each in tax cuts.

The fact is we’re 50th in the country for average teacher salary,” Farley says. “We’re seven percent below 49th. Fifty two percent of our teaching positions are either vacant or held by someone without proper qualifications. More than a thousand teachers have left since the beginning of this school year. We’re in a crisis, and we have to pay teachers what they’re worth so other states don’t treat us like a farm team and give them bonuses and take them away from us.”

Rios says she took the opportunity to speak with the teachers. She says it was a first hand experience of seeing how the debate is being handled.

The question became how do we change this,” Rios says. “My response sounds simple, but the fact of the matter is until you change those players at the table you’re going to continue to get what you’re getting.”

Both politicians stress that renewing Prop 301 will only maintain the status quo. Arizona will still be last in the country when it comes to teacher pay.

We need investment,” Farley says. “We can’t keep giving out these tax cuts. We can’t function as a society or economy if we aren’t training our workforce of the future and we aren’t giving kids the opportunity to succeed.”

Rep. Rebecca Rios: (D) House Minority Leader
Sen. Steve Farley: (D) Senate Assistant Minority Leader

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